The changing landscape of Philadelphia’s museums
Aerial rendering of the Barnes Foundation Philadelphia on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (Barnes Foundation)
In a city known for its historical museums, Philadelphia is making a number of changes to its future offerings.
In less than two months, on 3 July, the priceless collection of 19th and 20th century, Post-Impressionist, French masterpieces at the Barnes Foundation will close in the original exhibition space in Merion, Pennsylvania. The 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 46 Picassos and 59 Matisses, as well as works by Soutine, Rousseau, Modigliani, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat and Manet, will debut in a brand new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012.
The controversial relocation breaches the will and testament of Dr Albert Barnes, who died in 1951. In 2004, Judge Stanley R Ott ruled that the financially strained foundation should be allowed to break the trust and move the collection into a larger and more accessible structure. However, in February the citizens group Friends of the Barnes petitioned the court to reopen the case sighting new evidence presented in the 2009 documentary, The Art of the Steal.
The transition of the Barnes Foundation is just the tip of the iceberg in Philadelphia's changing museum landscape. The Jewish History Museum, which opened in November, contains more than 10,000 artifacts, some dating back more than 300 years. Both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum have undertaken long-term renovation projects to expand exhibition space. And last year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and leaders of the city's Holocaust Remembrance Foundation announced plans to build an education center on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The museum will break ground in 2015.
The Barnes on the Parkway is hugely important to Philadelphia's changing museum culture, but the other development initiatives should not go overlooked. As a hub of diversity, with strong offerings in history, art, interactive science and religion, a new city is emerging with a wealth of sites to explore.